Ottawa Citizen

Turbodiese­l makes sweet ride sweeter

The diesel engine is here to stay — and for good reason

- BY GRAEME FLETCHER

The BMW 3 Series is one of the benchmark cars in the entry-level-luxury segment. You name it — Audi A4, Infiniti G37, Lexus IS 350 — the list is lengthy and it has been compared with this car. So, given its status, how does one improve upon a proven commodity?

The answer is surprising­ly simple: slip a diesel engine under its shapely hood.

Not so long ago, this strategy would have been the kiss of death. Our neighbours to the south still have not learned to embrace the diesel engine in quite the same way as Canadians. Thankfully, the diesel is here to stay, and deservedly so.

Compare an oil burner from 1983 with today’s clean diesel and it’s only too obvious why the shift to this fuel is building momentum. Horsepower at the driver’s disposal is up 135 per cent, torque has risen 170 per cent, fuel consumptio­n has dropped 20 per cent and the modern diesel spews 99 per cent fewer pollutants.

The 335d’s diesel engine delivers all of this and much more.

The 3.0-litre six-cylinder features a pair of turbocharg­ers and the latest, third-generation common-rail technology. The result is a healthy 265 h.p. and a tire-shredding 425 lb.-ft. of torque at just 1,750 r.p.m.

The latter is the stuff of lore. A small turbo delivers a lag-free launch off the line and a ton of low-end torque. As engine speeds rise, a larger turbo joins the party. Both turbos work together through the mid-range to maintain the initial punch. At the top end of the rev range, the smaller turbo goes off-line, which prevents it from becoming an exhaust restrictio­n.

Then there’s the stuff that cleans up the exhaust stream. Blue Performanc­e incorporat­es an oxidation catalyst, particulat­e filter and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) catalyst with urea injection. In simple terms, the urea (AdBlue) converts the nitrogen oxides in the exhaust gas into nitrogen and water.

So, just how well does the diesel work in practice? A while back, I drove a 335d from Salzburg to Munich over my favourite bit of road — the Timmelsjoc­h Pass.

The experience underscore­d just how well this car works.

On the climb up the winding pass, the engine pulled without missing a beat, doing so while remaining oblivious to the increasing altitude. Conversely, on the autobahn, the 335d sipped its fuel at an average of 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres — to say the car’s speed was inflated is an understate­ment. When driven with an eye to economy, consumptio­n plummeted to 6.1 L/100 km. Back in sunny Ontario, things worked equally well — the 335d ran to 100 kilometres an hour in 6.4 seconds and accomplish­ed the 80-to-120-km/h passing move in a quick 4.7 seconds. These times give some of the best gasoline-powered sports cars a run for their money.

The turbodiese­l’s power is relayed to the rear wheels through a six-speed manumatic. The beauty of this box is twofold. First, it emphasizes the engine’s torque. Second, it brings some needed engine braking after a snappy downshift. Heading into a fast corner, it holds the driver’s selected gear through to the apex. Hit the accelerato­r, flick the shifter and the 335d pulls out of a corner as well as anything I’ve driven.

Of course, the fact the 335d remains flatter than the Prairies when pushed through a long, looping onramp emphasizes its sporty nature. Imagine putting sporty and diesel in the same sentence. How times have changed.

The rest of the car’s dynamics are equally good. The brakes deliver strong stops ( 39 metres from 100 km/ h) and the electronic stability system resists the urge to dive in until there is a real need. It’s all about balance, and bal- anced the 335d is — to a T.

Inside, the 335d is every inch a BMW. The materials speak to the car’s quality and the ergonomics are very good — this includes the iDrive controller. In the past, I have whined about its needless complexity.

Thankfully, there are more stand-alone functions and a return button that simplifies things enormously.

Throw in some seriously comfortabl­e seats and all the desirable toys and a long drive becomes something to relish. This is just as well because the 335d can squeeze up to 1,130 km between fill-ups if the driver achieves its highway fuel economy rating of 5.4 L/100 km.

Even those relegated to the rear seats will not complain too much. There is plenty of headroom, decent legroom and ample width for two; three will f it, but it’s not a wise idea.

Likewise, the 15.9-cubic-feet trunk is large enough to accommodat­e the luggage required for that long trip.

Dirty diesel is now an oxymoron. The 335d’s engine is clean. The fact it’s also powerful and eerily quiet underscore­s its sweetness.

As good as BMW’s 3.0L gas engines are, the diesel is better. Nothing gives the driver a sense of power quite like a having a mountain-sized torque plateau at one’s right foot.

That the 335d is as efficient as it is rewarding to drive makes it a winning combinatio­n in my book.

 ??  ?? The 2010 BMW 335d is as efficient as it is rewarding to drive, making it a winning combinatio­n.
The 2010 BMW 335d is as efficient as it is rewarding to drive, making it a winning combinatio­n.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada